Welcome to the Sunday Interview and this week I am delighted to introduce you to Sharon Marchisello who talks about her genre, her publishing adventures, most useful invention and activities she feels we should experience.
Tell us about your chosen genre of books that you write and why?
My chosen genre is mystery. I started out writing “mainstream” fiction, but when I was in graduate school at the University of Southern California, one of my professors suggested I pick a genre, as it would be easier to get published that way. He loved mysteries, but I wasn’t a fan, so I tried to write romance. I found I couldn’t make my stories fit the formula, though.
For my third novel, I got an idea for a mystery, and I had so much fun writing it. It’s like putting together a puzzle. I set up a crime and then created a cast of suspects, all with motive and opportunity. I wasn’t even sure who did it until I’d been writing for a while. Unfortunately, although I found an agent who shopped it around for a while, that book never got published.
Writing mystery teaches you a lot about using suspense, which is needed in any story to keep the reader turning the pages.
My fourth novel, Going Home, the first one to get a publisher, is also a mystery. It was inspired by my mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease, which prompted me to wonder what it would be like to interview a witness or a suspect who could not rely on her memory.
What adventures have you had publishing your work?
Publishing my first novel was a long process. I began writing Going Home in 2003; it was 2013 before I finally got a contract, and 2014 by the time the book was released. It went through seven drafts. I pitched to both agents and small publishers that would look at unagented material. I paid $50 for a critique from an agent at a conference and he spent half of our 15-minute session on his cell phone making lunch plans. All he had to say to me was, “I didn’t like your heroine as much as I wanted to, but keep writing.”
The first draft was a cumbersome 100,000 words filled with backstory, flashbacks, interior dialogue, and the protagonist’s opinions about everything. I was lucky to find an excellent beta reader from my Sisters in Crime chapter. Her advice was to cut, cut, cut all the superfluous prose that didn’t advance the plot; what I had was a mystery, so focus on that.
Several drafts later, I had a lean, mean, 75,000-word mystery, but it was still getting rejected. One agent said she loved it, read the whole thing on an airplane. “But,” she said. “It’s not a mystery. It’s more about the relationship between mother and daughter. This needs to be a mainstream novel. Give it more layers, and take it up to about 100,000 words.” She said she’d look at it after I did the rewrite, but suggested I seek other opinions.
My manuscript never made it back to 100,000 words, but I managed to flesh it out to around 89,000. Since I hadn’t really done what she’d asked, I didn’t resubmit to that agent.
I had a small press ask for the full manuscript, and then I didn’t hear from them for six months. When I finally got in touch (at a new email address I’d happened to find online), the editor admitted she’d lost my manuscript before getting a chance to read it. (She still had the SASE.) She’d been afraid to ask me to re-send it, because she kept thinking it would turn up. She let me resubmit electronically, but then she ignored me again. After a few months, I followed up, and she said she’d decided to pass; she wasn’t interested in publishing fiction anymore. I had wasted almost a year with her, for nothing.
When I finally got a contract from Sunbury Press, I was afraid to tell many people, for fear of jinxing things. What if they went out of business or cut their list before they got around to publishing my manuscript? What if they changed their mind? As a result, I made a lot of mistakes regarding marketing: I didn’t build a website or start a blog, didn’t get on social media and create hype, didn’t try to get advance reviews and blurbs. In my contract, I was entitled to some free copies. But I didn’t realize they wouldn’t be sent to me automatically; I had to go to the publisher’s website and order them. So the book had been out more than a month before I had my launch party.
I’ve been in writers groups and networking for years, so I should have known better, but I’m the type who can only learn by making the mistakes myself!
In your lifetime what event or invention has most impacted your own life or work?
I’d have to say the word processor/computer. When I first started writing, I wrote in pencil, long hand, on lined notebook paper. By the time I completed a manuscript, I had so many scratch-throughs and arrows and insertions, I could barely read what I wrote. When I finished, I’d type it up on an IBM Selectric typewriter. That would be the first time it would be possible to show my work to anyone else and get feedback. But once it was typed, I was resistant to making changes, especially those that required major retyping. With Microsoft Word, I can pull up the document and add/delete/move text around and then reprint easily. Makes it much easier to do rewrites, and rewriting is probably the most important part of writing, if you want to produce a book that is fit to publish.
What are the top five experiences or activities that you feel that everyone should complete in their lifetime?
- Travel – I’ve always been curious about new places and love learning about other cultures. Travel opens your eyes to different worldviews, different ways of doing things. And yet, in some ways, we’re all very similar. My husband and I have visited over 100 countries on six continents. When I finished graduate school, I got a job with an airline, and in my 27-year career, I took full advantage of the travel perks.
- Reading – I can’t imagine not being able to read. It’s essential to learning, and discovering new worlds. It can take you away from reality for a few hours, into a new world different from the one you’re living in.
- Having a pet – Nothing beats the unconditional love of a furry creature who can comfort you when you’re down and forgive you when you screw up.
- Learning another language – Not only does it help you understand another culture, it helps you understand the structure of your own language better. I learned a lot more about verb tenses in English after I studied French and Spanish.
- Creative Writing – I realize this is not for everyone, but for me, writing is essential to my sanity. I made up stories before I learned to write my name. Writing allows me to create a world where I am in control. Bad things happen to bad people. And the heroine, so much lovelier and more talented than me, can succeed where I fail, always saying the right thing and acting nobly.
Tell us about your work in progress, plans for your blog in the next year any special events that are coming up that are very special to you?
My work in progress, Secrets of the Galapagos, is a psychological suspense novel with multiple twists and turns. The setting was inspired by a Galapagos cruise I took in 2014.
I also write a blog about personal finance,Countdown to Financial Fitness, and will continue that.
I plan to attend several writers conferences this year. I already registered for Bouchercon, and I may attend Killer Nashville, too.
My Sisters in Crime chapter will participate in the Decatur Book Festival again this year, and I’m on the organizing committee.
About Sharon Marchisello
Sharon Marchisello is the author of “The Ghost on Timber Way,” part of a short story anthology entitled Mystery, Atlanta Style, featuring fellow Sisters in Crime members. She has published a personal finance e-book entitled Live Cheaply, Be Happy, Grow Wealthy, as well as numerous travel articles, book reviews, and corporate training manuals.
Sharon grew up in Tyler, Texas, and earned her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Houston in French and English. She studied for a year in Tours, France, on a Rotary scholarship and then moved to Los Angeles to pursue her Masters in Professional Writing at the University of Southern California. Now she lives in Peachtree City, Georgia, with her husband and cat.
Retired from a 27-year career with Delta Air Lines, she does volunteer work for the Fayette Humane Society. Going Home is her first published novel. The murder mystery was inspired by her mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s, which prompted her to wonder what it would be like to interview a witness or a suspect who could not rely on her memory.
About Going Home
Michelle DePalma expected to jet into Two Wells, Texas, check on her elderly mother, and hurry back to her orderly life in Atlanta, where she has a happy marriage and satisfying career. Instead, she finds her mother, Lola Hanson, hovered over the bludgeoned body of her caregiver, Brittany Landers.
Since the events of 9/11, one month earlier, Lola’s memory loss has amplified, and the family suspects Alzheimer’s. Now Lola can’t tell anyone what happened to Brittany.
The agency that provides home care for Lola promptly withdraws its services. Michelle is stuck in her home town longer than planned as she cares for a mother with whom she has never been close and tries to prove her innocence. The police officers who investigate the crime are old antagonists from grade school.
A secret thought to be long buried—that Michelle bore a son out of wedlock and gave him up for adoption—surfaces when a surprise daughter-in-law and granddaughter show up, distracting Michelle from her quest to solve the murder. And then she stumbles upon a motive which makes Lola look even more guilty.
“Going Home” was inspired by the author’s mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s and explores the challenge of solving a murder mystery when a potential witness cannot rely on her memory. Written from the prospective of a baby boomer forced to reverse roles with her parents, it crosses into the mainstream genre of women’s fiction and touches increasingly common issues such as elder abuse and end-of-life decisions.
Two of the reviews for Going Home.
Going Home is a wonderful example – a fascinating story of family connections By GG Byron on August 18, 2017
I am particularly fond of first-person female narrators. Going Home is a wonderful example – a fascinating story of family connections, both strained and strong, that are reawakened when Michelle, the first-person narrator, returns to her small hometown to visit her forgetful aging mother.As she enters the house she finds a young woman lying in a pool of blood, her mother unaware of what had obviously happened very recently. When first responders arrive, her mother, clearly suffering from dementia, becomes the primary suspect.Soon, another woman and her daughter arrive, seemingly related to Michelle.
The story intensifies as relationships come to light that Michelle had long since done her best to forget.
Without providing any spoilers, let’s just say that Michelle’s relationships with former schoolmates are revealed and intertwined against the backdrop of an increasingly confused woman, suspected of murdering her hired care-giver.I appreciate mysteries that incorporate social issues. “Going Home” is a great read!
I really liked “Going Home” by Sharon Marchisello, and found it to be an excellent and exciting mystery. I am familiar with the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s Disease and the author wrote an excellent mystery with many interesting characters. Ms. Marchisello has a lot of talent as a writer and I enjoyed it very much.
Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Sharon-Marchisello/e/B00NH6N4WK/
and Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sharon-Marchisello/e/B00NH6N4WK/
Read other reviews and follow Sharon on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4297807.Sharon_Marchisello
Connect to Sharon.
Blogspot : https://sharonmarchisello.blogspot.com/
Blog WordPress: https://smarchisello.wordpress.com/
My thanks to Sharon for joining us today and she mentioned that one of her favourite music artists is Jackson Browne and I have selected The Road and the Sky from Late For the Sky his 1974 album.
You can buy Jackson Browne music here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jackson-Browne/e/B000APV90K
I know that Sharon would welcome your feedback and any questions.. thanks Sally